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    The Concretes

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    The Concretes 9 ( 2004 )
    Say Something New / You Can't Hurry Love / Chico / New Friend / Diana Ross / Warm Night / Foreign Country / Seems Fine / Lovin Kind / Lonely As Can Be / This One's For You

    The Concretes appear to be some kind of love child of Mazzy Starr, Phil Spector and Abba parentage. With a little VU thrown in. They are a collective and they are from Sweden. Sweden seems to produce people that are a little strange, from time to time. Just take a look at The Hives! Anyhoo, this debut album is just joyous pop music of the highest order. The sound contains some moments that are clearly played simply. Actual simple melodies amidst the more complex overall song constructions. Well, complex for pop music. We've old-style sounding analogue keyboard sounds. We've guitar sounds that seems like VU and Spector combined. We've female vocals that are just delicious, vocals that come from some other universe, a pop Mazzy Starr, if you will. Lead single 'You Can't Hurry Love', i'll mention first. Along with a song actually titled 'Diana Ross', this reveals some kind of obvious Motown influence. 'You Can't Hurry Love' is delicious, infectious and energetic pop music of the kind that is entirely un-synthetic. Most pop music isn't natural, or as blindingly brilliant as this. 'You Can't Hurry Love' is one of the best songs i've heard in years. Oh, the stomping! Oh, the energy and oh the vocals and little catchy melodies!! Later on, 'Seems Fine' seems like another fine single in the waiting. It's instant. Yet, it's not instantly disposable. The Concretes seem to have caputured the key secret to perfect catchy pop. They've got that key, and played their knowledge with a production and sound that adds many instruments, yet doesn't sound for an instant synthetic, or over-produced. All of the songs just sound so brilliantly arranged. There is clear talent within The Concretes ranks!

    'Diana Ross' opens with haunting sounds, beating drums, and the entire thing is so perfectly arranged and constructed. These female vocals sound so alluring, so slightly enticingly seductive. 'Warm Night' is yet another masterpiece on an album full of them. It's lazy and sexy, so very sexy. A little lullaby sung to you by a naked person so very attractive to you, yet at the same time, not dirty. The Concretes are like some kind of incredibly artistic painting. At the same time, 'Warm Night' sounds like floating through Venice. It sounds like the most romantic and beautiful time of your life you could ever possibly have. That's the sound of The Concretes. I hope this isn't a one off and that they continue to produce sounds so delicious as those contained on this album. Oh, one last thing. They know how to use a string section. Whilst the "ah-ha-ah, aaa" backing comes in during "Warm Night". Weeping strings come in, so very lovely. The Concretes are an impossible triumph, and deserve to be so much better known than they currently are.

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    Stephen Murphy writeme@stephenmurphy.com
    I agree wholeheartedly. This album just grows and grows. It has a glacial beauty which can only come from the cold climate in which it was ditilled and is one of those records you need to listen to on the headphones, in winter, by candlelight (in a snow hotel?) because so much is going on in the background - fanfares, bleeps and sweet, sweet strings. The comparisons with the VU are very apt (tambourines a go go) but think also a poppy, party-drunk Sigur Ros, its that pretty and icy. Warm Night goes into my favourite song file without a hesitation. Like a sex lollipop. Buy Buy Buy!

    Dan justto_haveone@hotmail.com
    All songs reach the ideal; I have to agree with all you've said (even though I'm not sure how right you are about the simplicity of each song's overall construction). Metaphor everywhere, favorite melodies all over, this is simply most-elegant and most-delectable.

    In Colour 7 ( 2006 )
    On The Radio / Sunbeams / Change In The Weather / Chosen One / Your Call / Fiction / Tomorrow / As Four / Grey Days / A Way Of Life / Ooh La La / Song For The Songs

    I know it doesn't last. Who manages to keep that youthful naiviety anyway, especially when the 'who' in question is an eight-piece band? The Concretes therefore mature slightly from their charming debut, yet lose a little of the magic in the process. Much magic, the highlights from their debut LP were pop gold of the kind that come into our ears very rarely these days. Not that 'In Colour' entirely lacks such moments, yet there is a sense of growing up and being sensible, of takings things seriously. Many of my favourites bands best moments were simple little accidents, taken to new heights by luck more than by design. Sitting down to consciously replicate such lucky acts of genius often dulls the effect. The first and last songs presented to us on 'In Colour' are, curiously, by far the best. 'Song For The Songs' has such an irresistable hook, the distinctive, honey coated female vocals, the bed of icing sugar underneath and that sense that the entire thing was created out of thin air. The arrangement has a sense of purpose about it, however. It sounds thought through, but with such strong melodic threads running underneath, who are we to resist? 'On The Radio' is even better, it matches the glories of the bands debut. It sinks into your soul even deeper with repeated listens. There's little twinkling bells, swoonsome vocals and a pop hook the size of the sixties. On the otherhand, the sugar coated taking things seriously prevent the likes of Magic Numbers duet 'Your Call' from taking flight. That particular song has cloying lyrics and an irritating level of sweetness.

    The ten songs between the first and last numbers lack magic, yet still contain impressive moments here and there. From the attractive folky spirit of 'Grey Days' through to much needed, soulful darkness with 'Tomorrow' and pop simplicity with the stirring 'Ooh La La'. So, 'In Colour' is by no means a bad album at all, coming to think of it. Yet, the let downs prevent the album being enjoyable from beginning to end, especially as so many of them are piled together to form the albums middle stretch. Youthful naviety crossed with a genuine knack for pop served The Concretes so well for their debut LP. Why change things already? The band themselves already seem to have dismissed their early sound, believing this new effort the real deal. All they've done is softened the edges that made the band so enjoyable in the first place. So, a disappointing follow-up, although the highlights are still high enough for me to want to pick up their 3rd LP to see what happens next.

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    Stephen Murphy writeme@stephenmurphy.com
    I agree. After being initially pleased with this records summery pastel colours I soon grew weary of its sacharrine tones. Romeo Stoddart's contribution is lumpen (just hang the f up!) and the record in many places comes perilously near sounding like The Corrs. There is an over-produced, tinny sheen to this LP which feels like its been overcooked in a studio rather than bashed out in a bedroom. Sorry Conks! 6/10 for me.

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    Hey Trouble 8 ( 2007 )
    Hey Trouble / A Whales Heart / Kids / Firewatch / Didion / Oh Boy / Keep Yours / If We're Lucky We Don't Get There On Time / Souvenirs / Are You Prepared / Oh No / Simple Song

    What happened next was that The Concretes went from eight to seven with the loss of their lead singer. In a Ringo apeing moment, the drummer steps upto the mic and the band play on. This now singer/drummer hybrid also contributes to the songwriting and we do notice some changes. Firstly, the vocals, although in the same style as they always used to be, clearly aren't quite as swoonsome or rich as they were before. So that's a regrettable loss. Pop gems of the likes of 'On The Radio' or 'Can't Hurry Love' are only conspicous by their absence whilst listening to 'Hey Trouble'. The band have turned to the guy who produced their debut LP and there is a sense the revised Concretes band are trying to get back to basics after the lukewarmly received sophistication of 'In Color'. Get back to basics then but also we hear a few elements brought to the fore which were previously very much in the background. Analogue synths, early eighties new wave and mid-eighties pop permeate three or four of the songs, including the rather weird if still wonderful lead single 'Kids'. A wonky sounding beat joins a very early eighties synth sound playing a simple little two note melody. The lyrics are very nostalgic, remembering 'buying being boring' and listening to 'Killing Me Softly'. 'Music just sounds better with you' she sings, in an almost broken voice. 'Kids' is at once uplifting and strangely heartbreaking as we imagine sunny days and ( indie ) times gone by. The keyboard in the instrumental break is straight out of 1983 and I love it.

    Immediately surrounding 'Kids' are two songs with wonderful pop construction. 'A Whale's Heart' is the best song on the entire LP, opening with a Spector beat, encompassing heartbreak, nature, beauty and ending with euphoria as this listener grins and smiles and gets goosebumps. 'Firewatch' is a classy slice of mid-tempo pop of the kind that appeared on 'In Color' and ranks alongside the best material on that LP. The lyrics are really nice. The nearest 'Hey Trouble' gets to a 'Can't Hurry Love' or 'On The Radio' is 'Oh Boy', a slice of sunshine right in the middle of the album, instantly avoiding some of the problems that befell 'In Color' where people asleep were more likely to be found in the middle stretch of the album than a pop gem. What else? Well, there's still a selection of filler on the LP and not enough gems of the quality of 'Whales Song' or 'Oh Boy' for the album to match their classic debut. A final word for the ballad, 'Oh No', a ghostly sounding vocal, a single bass guitar gently plucking away over a harpsichord. Echoed vocals, backing vocals and harmonies and a glorious close to the tune prove that The Concretes have indeed retained enough for an optimistic future. I hope they continue and I thank them for those magical moments they create every now and again.

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    this page last updated 28/11/07

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